Chapter 3: Birds Don’t Go to College
Nothing in existence is clearer than music. It stops at death when life has become silent. Life is full of resonance, but man is deaf; therefore, though the thread is clear and within our hands, we do not grasp it. If life is so full of song, then it is certain that God’s hand is behind it. God is somewhere hidden behind the song. If we could sing, if we could lose ourselves in the rapture of his song, the thread will be grasped. To be absorbed in the song is the thread that leads to him. Then it will not be long to escape the prison of sansara, this everyday world, and reach liberation in God.
Nanak made his sadhana, his practice, out of song. Sometimes you must have felt the intoxication creeping up on you in the exhilaration and ecstasy of singing. But people are afraid to sing. Birds do not care whether their voices are sweet or not, but man is very careful. Only a few people sing, those with good voices; the rest sing only in the bathroom where no one can see and no one can hear. Singing makes you feel fresher than a bath, for bathing only touches the surface while the song sinks deep within. He who cannot hum has lost connection with God; he retreats further and further from existence, like a living corpse.
Kabir has said about this country: “This is the land of corpses, for the song of life does not play here. No one dances in celebration, no one sings with a full heart, and no one loses himself in song.”
It doesn’t matter whether your voice is sweet or not, for song isn’t a commodity to be sold in the marketplace, but rather an expression of gratitude and happiness. A song is made meaningful and beautiful by you being enraptured by it, not by the quality of your voice. You can be so immersed in your song that you are no more, only the song is - the singer is lost, the song remains. It can happen so simply, and there is no easier thread. If birds can sing, plants hum, and the waterfall babble, are you so useless that you can’t stand amongst them? Are you so incapable that you can’t compete with the stream or with the birds and the trees?
The fact is that you are frightened since song has been made into a sellable commodity. As a result, it is no longer a natural act in life but a product for the market, and you worry about making time for it and whether your voice is adequately trained. No stream stops to learn music; it is as natural a flow as a river. Music is already within, so it needn’t be learned.
All you require is the courage and daring to be a little mad, and then the song will spurt out of you. Birds don’t go to college to learn music; they don’t worry about who says what; they are not anxious whether their song will sell; they sing with joy and abandon. Why not you?
Since we started selling our songs in the bazaar another calamity took place; we stopped singing and became listeners. We are passive: if someone sings we listen, if someone dances we look. Think of how impoverished and wretched we have become. The time will come when someone will be happy and we will be the audience. What a difference between watching someone’s happiness and being happy yourself! Imagine looking on while someone is making love, and you don’t make love yourself. Do you see the difference? Can love be known by watching? No, it can only be known when you yourself love.